Detroit Motor Show — February 2008

Date: Saturday, February 23, 2008

This year will be a turbulent one for all three US vehicle makers after a shrinking truck market in 2007, but that didn't stop them coming out fighting for the Detroit motor show. Newly independent Chrysler talked tough about its new status and launched an all-new Dodge Ram truck, Ford unveiled its incredibly important all-new F-150 and GM showed a compact Hummer that might tread more lightly on the planet while still looking majorly rugged. What Van? attended the big truck fest to kick some tyres and also see what happens when you cross a Prius with a pick-up.

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 had a bad year in 2007 selling 'only' 690,589 units compared to a best ever 939,511 in 2004. Fair to say then, despite the US economic gloom, an all-new F-150 is still a big, big deal. The 12th generation 2009 model goes on sale this autumn with Ford claiming the most choice ever ? three cab styles, four box options and seven trim levels, from basic XL to swanky Platinum and King Ranch ? class-leading towing ability plus still the industry's highest payload capacity. 

New features on the enlarged rear of the 'Supercrew' double cab include fold-up rear seat bases creating 1.6m3 of loading space behind the front seats. The box side and tailgate steps (the latter formerly available only on the 2008 Super Duty model) make access to the load area easier and a 'stowable bed extender' allows users to securely pack more stuff with the tailgate down. Sliding dividers allow compartmentalisation of load space too.

With meaty V8 petrol engines, from 4.6- to 5.4-litre, the latter capable of running on E85 bioethanol, plus voice-activated satnav and even an iPod jack ? 60 per cent of full-size pick-up customers are country music fans ? the new F-150 is quite a package. By 2010 there are even plans to bring in diesel engines.

Dodge Ram 

Another massive deal to the American auto market is the all-new Dodge Ram. It has a strong, more 'grille-forward', look and claims many segment firsts including a coil spring multi-link rear suspension fitted to a solid rear axle for ?ride and handling capabilities?, that the Dodge PR describes as ?unexpected in a pick-up truck?.

It also offers a claimed industry first cargo management system made up of weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable storage bins built into the bed rails plus cargo dividing rails and even an under floor storage bin big enough for ten cans of drink and ice.

A new higher powered 374hp 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with 548Nm of torque offers four per cent better fuel economy and there's a crew cab option for the first time. Dodge too will launch a diesel after 2009 with a two-mode hybrid for the 2010 model year.

Toyota A-BAT Concept 

This RAV4-sized 'eco-focused pick-up' concept features a four-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid powertrain and solar panels built into the top of the dashboard allegedly efficient enough to power the satnav. Between the front seats, a portable power pack masquerades as a centre armrest and can be unclipped to power electrical tools away from the vehicle.

?The rear interior features a useful new seat system where the base slides out horizontally for passengers to sit on, or can be pushed back into the bulkhead to create a large space ? and seems an even more space-saving solution than the production F-150's. The rear seatbacks fold down to increase the load bay length and a large secure sliding drawer extends out from under the tailgate at the rear. It's a 'blue sky' concept for now, but with global eco-related legislation set to get tougher don't bet against something similar from Toyota soon.

Hummer HX Concept 

Even Hummer got on the eco bandwagon at Detroit with a 300hp 3.6-litre V6 E85 engine in its entry-level sub-H3-sized HX concept. The brand says every model will offer an E85-capable powertrain by 2010. Strong original 'Humvee' military vehicle design cues like the vertical rib grille, upright windscreen and superb 'slant-back' rear make the HX look great and it's versatile too; designed to be three vehicles in one. Doors and rear-roof assembly unclip to transform the car from 'slant back' to 'pick-up' to 'wagon' with relative ease.

The interior offers a lightweight minimalist dashboard and aircraft-inspired seats. There is no stereo ? only integrated speakers for a plug-in iPod ? and the standout gadget is a camera behind the rear-view mirror and another under the vehicle to record journeys for viewing back at the ranch. 


Our cousins across the water are still in love with large capacity petrol V8s, and who isn't, but the writing is on the wall. Their thoughts are turning, albeit slowly, towards fuel economy and eco-efficiency.


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